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Pushing the Envelope for Retailers: PureData System for Analytics

General Manager, Distribution Sector (Retail, CPG, Travel & Transportation), IBM Netezza & Big Data Platforms

Today’s retail environment sees some basic and fundamental issues. From a technology perspective, the average retail IT environment is typically struggling to maintain and provide value to its business users. IT is put in a tough spot in retail as it is chartered with supporting legacy infrastructure, keeping the basic financial, merchandising and POS systems running, while at the same time dealing with business users constantly demanding new insights, analytics and performance improvements over the retailers core business. As the average retailer deals with stiff competition from low overhead online businesses and e-tailers, it requires access to core analytical insights and advanced analytical capabilities to keep a clear pulse on the competition, and keep away encroaching businesses.

Shopping_Mall.jpgIT therefore has to re-assess its value proposition and focus on areas that deliver high value at a fraction of the cost and in turn deliver major value to the business. The idea is to give people, such as marketing gurus, merchandising decision makers, and core management execs, visibility into the business, and yet do it more efficiently and at a low price point.

Seems simple enough, yet utilizing legacy systems and processes and trying to create efficiencies artificially will not do it. Retail perhaps more than any other industry is seeing a significant shift in its core value proposition. Consumers are constantly using new data sources, new media, and new applications to determine the best place, price and time to shop. The gen X and gen Y shoppers, although seemingly less loyal and more price savvy, are also much more accessible and revealing. Therefore, there is a good and bad that comes out of this over-zealous consumer. As shoppers look for deals they leave a fair bit of information about themselves exposed - and so while the bad might be a frugal, less loyal shopper, the good is that it is a much more accessible and identified shopper.

The question is, are retailers taking advantage of the new data that is available about each shopper? That question goes back to the retailer's IT environment – is IT able to take the new data sources, digest them into analytical environments that can then be mined and utilized for decision making and do it quickly?

The answer cannot be "we have enough to do with basic reporting needs of the business, how can we keep up with these new data sources?" That is where the game shift has to be recognized and taken advantage off. Maintaining systems that scale automatically is key, maintaining systems that work like appliances and that are cheaper than other options is key and maintaining systems that require less effort in enhancing and improving is also key. While in some situations there may be existing investment in rival technologies, it is important to understand that sinking more into an inefficient system will not work and in the end prove counter-productive.

Switching completely is also perhaps not necessary, it might have to be done in phases, but IT environments should look at focusing on core systems, such as merchandising, marketing, etc. to sequentially make the correct investment. Data marts are a good way to get started, but taking advantage of what is on offer is critical for IT and making well measured and steady steps will change the game for IT and for the business as a whole.

With the latest release of IBM PureData System for Analytics, a new shift has occurred in the data warehouse appliance and analytic market landscape. The price, performance and capacity equation has been pushed significantly.

IBM PureData System for Analytics offers 3X performance improvement over the previous product line (formerly called IBM Netezza) along with 50% more capacity on an individual rack, which equates to reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) significantly. On a side-by-side comparison, the TCO of IBM is as much as 25% of the TCO of rival platforms, effectively a much more cost-efficient and faster performing solution.

For retailers looking to capitalize on new and deeper data sources to leverage new insights into the customers, PureData System for Analytics is just the ticket to push the envelope on high value at a fraction of the cost.

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